The 46th Annual CMA Awards were held Thursday night, November 1st in downtown Nashville at the Bridgestone Arena. The live broadcast, on the ABC network, opened with Jason Aldean performing ‘Only Way I Know’ in front of a huge American flag and giving a shout out to the resilient people of New York and the entire east coast. Jason was joined on stage by Luke Bryan and Eric Church who accompany Aldean on the song on his latest album, Night Train. Their performance received a standing ovation from those in attendance.
Returning as hosts for a 5th consecutive year were Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood, who did not disappoint. They opened the show with “Moves Like Haggard” complete with in tune whistling, after which they alluded to many of the famous attendees of this year’s awards; Brad Paisley mentioning Taylor Swift and former boyfriend Connor Kennedy. When Carrie told him they had split, they went into a they are never ever, ever, never ever getting back together spoof. Before introducing the night’s first presenter, they did a little Gangnam style dancing, much to the delight of the crowd!
The night’s first presenter was Lisa Marie Presley, who is currently breaking into the Country/Americana genre. Presley presented the award for Single of the Year which went to first time winners Little Big Town for ‘Pontoon,’ the catchy summer song that ignited the charts this past year. Genuinely shocked and grateful for the award, band member Kimberly Schlapman declared “Oh my stars!” when taking the stage.
The night’s second performer was Tim McGraw, who performed his second single, ‘One Of Those Nights,’ with new label Big Machine Records. McGraw sounded much like his younger self, a sound that has been missing in recent years; it was good to hear the ‘original Tim’!
Jana Kramer and Jake Owen presented the award for Vocal Duo of the Year. The award went to husband-and-wife duo Thompson Square, who were genuinely moved by the honor. Kiefer stating that “it’s great when you get to share this with your best friend.” This was Thompson Square’s first win for CMA Vocal Duo of the Year.
Miranda Lambert sang her latest single ‘Fastest Girl in Town’ wearing tight leather pants and a multi-colored corset top. She looked great and the new hair style fits her and her fiery personality perfectly! Zac Brown Band performed their newest single ‘Goodbye in Her Eyes,’ which is sure to be their latest hit! Dierks Bentley performed ‘Tip It On Back,’ his salute to the working man. The Band Perry debuted their brand new single, ‘Better Dig Two,’ while Eric Church brought crowd-favorite ‘Springsteen’ to life, complete with the American flag scarf that is worn in the music video, and a little bit of ‘Born To Run’ mixed in for good measure. Eli Young Band performed their most recent #1 hit ‘Even If It Breaks Your Heart.’
Kellie Pickler, sporting a ‘pixie cut’ after shaving her head in support of her friend who is battling breast cancer, looked stunning as she and Darius Rucker presented the award for Song of the Year. The honor this year went to Miranda Lambert’s ‘Over You,’ written by Lambert with husband Blake Shelton. The song was written in memory of Blake’s brother who he lost in a car crash at the age of 14. In his acceptance speech, Blake said that his father, who he lost in January, always told him that he needed to write the song for his brother, “he’s gone now, but he’s still right”, Blake said of his father. Miranda could not say much in the way of an acceptance speech, simply because she was in tears.
Before bringing Taylor Swift to the stage, Brad Paisley played a little bit of the theme song to The Andy Griffith show, in honor of Andy Griffith, who we lost this past year. Taylor Swift took the stage to perform her latest single, ‘Begin Again,’ with the set transformed into a French café.
One of the best performances of the evening might have been LBT’s ‘Pontoon,’ with their set reminiscent of the Hollywood Squares set, each band member in their own square, performing to, but not actually seeing the other members. The added animations making it look like they were on the lake were a nice touch.
The presentation of Musician of the Year award was not done live, but the award went to acclaimed musician Mac McAnally. Luke Bryan, in his painted-on jeans, performed ‘Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye’ complete with his now famous dance moves that drive (some) ladies wild! Kristian Bush and a very pregnant Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland presented the award for Album of the Year, which went to a very humbled Eric Church for ‘Chief.’ This was Eric’s first win for album of the year.
In his first ever CMA Awards appearance, Hunter Hayes performed a stripped-down version of his first #1 hit, ‘Wanted;’ just him and his piano, in the middle of the audience at the Bridgestone Arena. The presentation for the Music Video of the Year was not presented live, however the honor went to Toby Keith for ‘Red Solo Cup.’ Keith, who refuses to attend the CMA Awards, was not present for the show.
Before bringing Faith Hill to the stage for her much anticipated return to the CMA’s Brad and Carrie performed a piece of ‘Once a Day’ by Connie Smith, who was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame earlier this year. Faith performed her latest single, ‘American Heart.’ Reaching back to his first single, Brantley Gilbert performed ‘Country Must Be Country Wide,’ which lead into the announcement of Radio Stations of the Year. Winners of radio stations of the year were for small market WUSY Chattanooga, TN; for medium market WIDK Knoxville, TN; for large market WUBE Cincinnati, OH; and for major market WKLB Boston, MA.
An audience-pleasing performance was Zac Brown Band and Keith Urban performing ‘Georgia Woods,’ a song off of Keith’s Get Closer album. 2011’s New Artist of the Year award winners The Band Perry returned to the stage to pass the torch on to another new artists. This year’s winner was the young, multi-talented Hunter Hayes.
The hosts of the night, pulled double duty as each took to the stage to perform. Bard Paisley performed ‘Southern Comfort Zone’ starting with a shout out to New York, New Jersey and all the people on the east coast affected by super storm Sandy. Up next, Brad’s co-host Carrie Underwood took to the stage to perform her smash hit ‘Blown Away.’ Showered by colored confetti and surrounded by smoke, the crowd was definitely blown away!
American Idol alum Scotty McCreery along with Gold Medal Olympian and current Dancing With The Stars competitor Shawn Johnson presented the award for Vocal Group of the Year, which went to Little Big Town, who took the stage thanking Jesus multiple times saying that this “has been a 13 year journey.”. Their acceptance speeches were cut short due to time, so be sure to check out their twitter page to find out who else they had to thank for this award.
Jason Aldean returned to the stage to perform ‘Take a Little Ride’ and powerhouse Kelly Clarkson was joined by legendary Vince Gill for her performance of ‘Don’t Rush.’ The combination of their voices was amazing, sure to delight country fans of all ages!
Martina McBride presented Male Vocalist of the Year honors to Blake Shelton. This was Blake’s third win in the Male Vocalist category. Kenny Chesney took to the stage to perform ‘Come Over,’ after which Connie Britton, Hayden Panettiere and Kimberly Williams-Paisley presented Female Vocalist of the Year to Miranda Lambert, who could not believe that she had been chosen over the likes of Taylor Swift, and Martina McBride paying compliments to each woman she was up against. This was Miranda’s third time winning Female Vocalist. The Musical Event of the Year was not presented live, but went to Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw for ‘Feel Like A Rock Star.’
The highlight of the night came during the Willie Nelson tribute. Lady Antebellum performed ‘Always On My Mind,’ Hillary Scott of Lady Antebellum performed ‘Crazy;’ Blake Shelton, Keith Urban and Mickey Rafael on the harmonica performed ‘Whiskey River;’ and Faith Hill and Tim McGraw performed ‘Good Hearted Woman (In Love With A Good Timing’ Man).’ After the medley of songs was complete, all performers were joined on stage by Willie himself as they all performed the classic ‘On The Road Again.’ The very first CMA Lifetime Achievement award was then presented to the iconic Texas singer-songwriter.
The award everyone waits all night to see was presented this year my Reba McEntire and Tim Allen, both who have new shows on ABC this fall (premiers Friday, November 2: Allen’s Last Man Standing at 8/7 central and Reba’s Malibu Country at 8:30/7:30 central). The nominees for the coveted award were Jason Aldean, Kenny Chesney, Brad Paisley, Blake Shelton and Taylor Swift. While many people expected Taylor Swift to take the trophy home yet again, it was Blake Shelton who took the honor home, declaring “I don’t know how it happened, but I freakin’ love it!”
Check out some photos from the show: